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Tom Allen: Congress Through the Publishing Lens

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Allen has a fresh take on partisan bickering in his new book, “Dangerous Convictions: What’s Really Wrong With the U.S. Congress.”

More broadly, serving in Congress is an unmatched opportunity to absorb the circumstances of others’ lives, which is helpful in whatever comes next. To meet people from all walks of life, with divergent interests and ideas, of varied backgrounds and experience, as members do, is a window on the amazing complexity of the world in which we live. However, Republicans and Democrats (with individual exceptions) perceive that world through dramatically different lenses, which shape our interpretations of what we see. It’s my interest in those lenses that led me to write the book.

Q. Your book is one of many that previous members of Congress have written. How do former members of Congress prove themselves in the writing world? What have you learned from the writing experience that you would use to advise others seeking to put pen to paper about their time in Congress?

A. Former members are a diverse group, and there is no one way to make a contribution with our writing. The discipline of writing what we think and then editing early drafts, and later ones, too, can be a good way to test whether or not our initial views make sense. Given the challenges America confronts today, and our inside perspective on government, I recommend trying to explain how we can escape the institution’s current unproductive gridlock and find a path to a more pragmatic politics inspired by a clearer conception of the common good. For me, that’s the goal that matters.

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